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28/06/2023 | Article

Rural Guatemalan women at the heart of community health

Gladis Gómez wears a purple Huipil, a traditional outfit worn by people from the mountainous, western part of Guatemala. The colour represents mourning, as she sadly lost a distant relative a few days earlier. Despite this, a smile lights up her face—a smile that so many people in her community recognise. Gladis is the President of a local health committee in her small village of Xecaracoj. The committee brings together a dozen rural women who have been trained in key health issues by the Guatemalan Red Cross so they can help promote healthy practices in their community. Together, the women go door to door around their village, sharing knowledge on how people can prevent common diseases and deaths, especially among children. This work is vital. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world, and more than half the population live below the poverty line. The COVID-19 pandemic also took a heavy toll on the country – with 20,000 people dying from the disease within 3 years. ‘’We have spread the new knowledge given to us by the Guatemalan Red Cross to inform men, boys and girls about things as simple as hand washing, cleaning our homes and our streets, and the importance of breastfeeding and nutrition.” “We now know that healthy habits make the difference between having a strong and healthy community or continuing to take our babies to the hospital,'' says Gladis. Juan Poyón, Epidemic and Pandemic Control Technician for the Guatemalan Red Cross, says he’s learned a lot from the health committees, like the one run by Gladis, and has used the women’s local knowledge to guide and improve their support. “We identified key issues, for example, that their priorities were the prevention of COVID-19 or malnutrition. Today, with the committees already trained, we identified that the women wanted to reach more people, in fact, they prioritised radio, information kiosks or messages via WhatsApp as the best channels to share their knowledge more widely,” explains Juan. To share these valuable community insights even further, the Guatemalan Red Cross connected the women-led health committees with the country's Ministry of Health—which has proved to be an eye opener for the national authorities. They’re now working together to improve community health across the country. Ana Gómez, Epidemiologist at the Guatemalan Ministry of Health, explained: “We have worked with the Guatemalan Red Cross to identify people’s needs, respecting the diversity of the population. We learned about, and welcomed, women's points of view to strengthen community health, and along the way we confirmed that their role is key.” “Women are the main users of health services. They also play a fundamental role in the education of the next generation who will be in charge of the country. Involving women ensures positive behavioural change in families and communities, and therefore contributes to improving Guatemala's health,” says Ana. Spending time with Gladis, it’s clear to see that she takes a lot of pride in her work, and that she and her fellow health committee members are happy their voices are being heard. As she sits and weaves herself a new corte – a traditional Mayan skirt – she points to the yellow stripes that represent hope. “Tomorrow I will wear a yellow Huipil to represent the colour of life, the rays of the sun, and corn,” says Gladis. “The women of this community are special, very special, because today we have the knowledge to protect life.” -- The promotion of these local health committees in Guatemala is part of the epidemic and pandemic preparedness pillar of our Programmatic Partnership with the European Union. So far, 1250 families in the rural area of Quetzaltenango, western Guatemala, have received valuable and trusted health advice provided by the local health committees. Implemented by 24 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, including in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador in the Americas, the Programmatic Partnership helps communities to reduce their risks and be better prepared for disasters and health emergencies. The IFRC will continue to strengthen the capacities of communities in Guatemala to prevent pandemics and epidemics; and to encourage more women to take leadership positions so they can have a profound, positive impact on the future of their communities.

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30/05/2023 | Article

From Sierra Leone to the Darien: migrants cross continents for a better future

Francis Icabba left his home country ofSierra Leone, West Africa, in search of security and new opportunities. Little did he know back then that he would end up crossing entire continents and one of the most dangerous migration routes in the world to find a better life. His first stop was neighbouring Guinea, after which he crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil. There, he found it difficult to settle in due to the language barrier, so he decided to continue his journey and head north. It took Francistwo months from the time he left Brazilto reach the Darien Gap: thethick, dense, and notoriously dangerousjungle separating Colombia from Panama. Once there, he embarked upon a six-day trek, prepared with cans of sardines, a small gas stove and some instant noodles to see him through. He was accompaniedby two pregnant women, on a journey he describes as ''one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do in my life”. They walked for twelve hours each day without food, as his supplies quickly ran out. The extreme humidity, suffocating heat and constant crossing of rivers and streams forced them to abandon their suitcases along the way. ''The pregnant women we were with had given up. On the way we avoided snakes, rushing rivers and dangerously steep mountains. Everything is green. You have no sense ofdirection and no mobile signal. You just walk and walk. All the people there takethe risk for a better life, but it is a road where hope is lost. I wouldn't advise anyone to go through the Darien Gap.'' Francis The Darien Gap is one of the most dangerous migration routes in the world. Sadly, it is not uncommon for people to die on the route due to the treacherous environmental conditions.There is also a highrisk of violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking and extortion by criminal gangs.  Despite this, it is estimated that more than 400,000 people will cross the Darien by the end of 2023, based on current trends. People ofmore than 50 different nationalities have been recorded travelling through the Darien. The majority are from Venezuela, Haiti and Ecuador, but some come from as far away as India, Somalia, Cameroon and Sierra Leone. People like Francis who make it through the Darien often arrive in very fragile physical and mental states. To help them recover, the Panamanian Red Cross runs reception centres where they providefirst aid and essentials such as food, safe water, hygiene kits and clothes. ''Arriving in Panama was one of the happiest moments of my life, it is very hard because I had to fight for it. The Red Cross was the first to help us and for me it was a blessing. In pursuit of our dream for a better life, we lost everything. So three meals a day, soap, a towel, a bath, being able to talk to someone or be cared for, that means everything.'' Francis Red Cross volunteersalso offer psychosocial support, as well as maternal and child health services to those who need them. And they can provide Restoring Family Links (RFL) services and WiFi, so migrants can let their families know where they are and that they are safe. For most migrants, the Darien isn’t the end of their journey, but rather the start of a 5,470 kilometre journey northwards through sixcountries in Central and North America. But no matter who they are, or where they come from, people on the move in this regionare not alone: they can continue to access similar support from Red Cross Societies, in the form of Humanitarian Service Points, every step of the way. -- Nearly 60,000 migrants like Francis received humanitarian assistance and protection from the IFRC network in 2022 thanks to ourProgrammatic Partnership with the European Union. Implemented by 24 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, including in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador in the Americas, the Partnership helps communities to reduce their risks and be better prepared for disasters and health emergencies. This includes protecting the safety, dignity and rights of people on the move. -- More photos on this topic are available to view and download here.

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16/05/2023 | Article

Polish Red Cross Infoline offers care and support to people fleeing Ukraine

“Yesterday I was told I’m an angel. That’s why it’s worth doing this job.” Alla Karapeichyk is a psychologist from Ukraine working at the Information Line of the Polish Red Cross, providing mental health and psychosocial support to people who call in. Most of her callers are people from Ukraine who have not yet been able to adapt to their new circumstances. Many of them expected to come to Poland just for a couple of weeks or months, but now they’ve been away from home for over a year. They feel confused about their next steps in life and are looking for some guidance. “By the time someone calls the Infoline, they already have a kind of solution in their mind for the problem. A well-timed, smart question from a mental health professional can help that solution take shape,” Alla explains. Christina from Kyiv is also a member of the team of seven operators at the Polish Red Cross Infoline. With her colleagues, she responds to an average of 300 calls per week, providing referrals to medical and public administration services. “Sometimes people who call are so stressed that they cannot stop crying. We’ve been trained to talk to them in a way that helps reduce their stress. When they receive the information they need, they can finally relax,” says Christina. “I’m also far from home, so I feel the same way as the people who are calling us. I can absolutely understand their problems, and I’m glad to be able to help.” Both Alla and Christina have received training in Psychological First Aid thanks to the EU4Health project supported by the European Union, so that they can better respond to the psychological needs of people impacted by the armed conflict. “Just as many other things in life, the situation in Ukraine is beyond our control. What we can change is our behaviour – we can influence our environment and have an impact on the people around us,” concludes Alla. -- If you left Ukraine because of the current conflict and need support, you can contact the Polish Red Cross Infoline on +48 800 088 136 (from within Poland) or +48 221 520 620 (from abroad). The Infoline is open Monday to Friday from 09:00 to 17:00 CET. About the EU4Health programme: National Red Cross Societies in Ukraine and 24 European Union (EU) / European Economic Area (EAA) countries joined forces to offer mental health and psychosocial support services to hundreds of thousands of people from Ukraine. Funded by the European Union and with technical assistance from the IFRC and the IFRC Psychosocial Centre, the project connects vulnerable people with mental health professionals and volunteers from the National Societies. -- This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the IFRC and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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23/02/2023 | Press release

Ukraine: IFRC warns of psychological wounds adding cruel layer of pain one year on

Geneva / Budapest / Kyiv 23 February 2023 -The psychological wounds of the international armed conflict in Ukraine are adding another cruel layer of pain to people already struggling to cope with shelter, hunger, and livelihoods needs, warns the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). As the effects of the last year continue to impact families, the IFRC network is running the biggest humanitarian response in its history. With a CHF 1.6 billion appeal spanning 58 countries, the IFRC network has reached more than two million people with medical care, mental health support and shelter; and so far has distributed more than CHF 87 million in cash assistance to bring choice and dignity to families who have lost everything. A total of 42 IFRC member National Societies are engaged in activities supporting people from Ukraine, domestically. IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain, said: “This grueling year has devastated the lives of millions of people and that brings with it psychological harm as significant as physical injury. We are preparing to expand our mental health interventions alongside cash, shelter, medical care and urgent assistance to help people manage the harsh winter with power cuts and water shortages.” Red Cross and Red Crescent teams are working everywhere—from bomb shelters in Bakhmut to refugees’ new homes across borders—and have provided more than a million people with psychosocial support since February 2022. As time marches on, more must be done to address mental health. “Trauma knows no borders: those in Ukraine and those who have fled are equally in need of comfort, stability, and a sense of normalcy,” remarked Mr. Chapagain. The Ukrainian Red Cross has provided psychosocial support to hundreds of thousands of people since the start of the conflict’s escalation. An additional 34 IFRC member National Societies are delivering specialist help to hundreds of thousands who have sought safety in other countries. Ukrainian Red Cross Director General, Maksym Dotsenko, said: “They have lost loved ones, homes, jobs, everything—this is devastating enough. People’s lives are in limbo and this anguish is eating them up inside, compounding the mental health crisis even further. “Helping families find coping mechanisms, treatment and support is crucial for us. We are training people on how to respond to mental health emergencies and this training is happening in bomb shelters and basements.” In neighbouring countries, IFRC member National Societies are receiving a growing number of pleas for mental health help via their community feedback systems. “We are a long way away from recovery for people from Ukraine, but ensuring support for mental health, alongside cash support, protection and other basic services is a way we can contribute to that eventual recovery,” said Mr. Chapagain. Over the past year, the IFRC network has mobilized more than 124,000 volunteers to respond to urgent needs of people affected by this international armed conflict. For more information, please contact: [email protected] In Kyiv: Nichola Jones, +44 7715 459956 In Budapest: Corrie Butler, +36 70 430 6506 In Geneva: Jenelle Eli, +1 202 603 6803 A/V materials available to media on the IFRC Newsroom. Note to editors: In a regional initiative to meet the massive need for mental health support, National Red Cross Societies in Ukraine and 24 countries across the EU/EEA have joined forces to provide mental health and psychosocial support services to more than 590,000 people over the course of three years. Target audiences include displaced people in Ukraine and impacted EU countries, caregivers, children, older persons, people with disabilities, host communities, as well as Red Cross volunteers and staff. Funded by the European Union and with technical assistance from the IFRC and the IFRC Psychosocial Centre, the EU4Health project connects vulnerable people with mental health professionals and volunteers from the 25 National Societies.

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16/12/2022 | Article

West Africa migration: Red Cross offers an oasis of help and hope to migrants in Kolda, Senegal

"They are exposed to violence, exploitation, abuse, security risks, sexual and gender-based violence, and all kinds of dangers along their migratory routes; here we offer them hope, as well as protection, assistance, guidance and counselling”. This is how Mariama Mballo, a social worker, sums up the work carried out at the Kolda Humanitarian Service Point (HSP) run by the Senegalese Red Cross and IFRC in southern Senegal. "The Kolda HSP is a centre for listening, psychosocial support, counselling and assistance for migrants. It offers an anonymous, confidential and free space for reception and counselling", says the 30-year-old sociologist by training, who has been working there since February 2022. Senegal, historically considered a destination country for migrants in West Africa, has become a transit country. Due to its geographical location, migrants, especially those coming from West Africa, pass through Senegal on their journey north to Maghreb countries or Europe in search of a better life. The importance of psychosocial support Travelling along perilous migration routes can have a profound impact on both the physical and mental health of migrants. The aim of the psychosocial support provided in Kolda is to help people on the move regain a certain normality, mental balance and, above all, to encourage people to be active and committed to their own recovery—by finding defence and protection mechanisms that work for them. When migrants in transit have needs that cannot be met at the HSP, they are referred to other external partner services. "The key to the project is its volunteers, in fact, they are the 'front door', the ones who first receive the migrants, listen to them and then direct them to the social worker for an active and in-depth listening", stresses Mariama. Staff working in Kolda can also sometimes become overwhelmed when listening to the experiences recounted to them by migrants during counselling sessions. “Yes, there are stories that shock us, but we have the capacity to overcome them in order to offer migrants the guidance and support they need," says Mariama. Meeting people’s wide-ranging needs People on the move can access other vital assistance, such as food and water, in Kolda. Many migrants who arrive, including women and children, have gone days without food as they undertake their long journeys through often inhospitable areas. Kolda's volunteers and staff also offer people useful advice and counselling on issues such as human trafficking, regaining contact with their families or the handling of important travel documents. And, if necessary, migrants can also receive legal assistance, always with the utmost confidentiality and protection, as well as basic help with clothing and hygiene in order to ensure their health and well-being. "The people who arrive at the HSP are often in a situation of advanced vulnerability, so we do everything we can to immediately meet their most pressing needs," says Mariama. Volunteers don’t just support migrants. They also carry out intensive work with the local community to raise awareness and knowledge about respect for the rights and dignity of migrants. This important work is carried out with the utmost confidentiality, always in line with our fundamental principles and the IFRC’s migration policy. Assistance and protection of the most vulnerable migrants in West Africa Kolda is just one example of the more than 600 Humanitarian Service Points run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies along the world’s main migration routes. They are neutral spaces that provide a welcoming and safe environment for migrants to access essential services, regardless of their status and without fear of being detained or reported to the authorities. Since the launch of the Kolda HSP en 2020, wich includes other small posts in Tanaff, Salikégné, Diaobé and Pata, volunteers have welcomed and supported more than 1,500 migrants. It was set up as part of the 'Assistance and protection of the most vulnerable migrants in West Africa' project. Funded by the European Union, the project covers different busy migratory routes through Burkina Faso, Gambia, Mali, Niger and Senegal. In addition to the National Societies of these countries, the project also involves the IFRC, Spanish Red Cross, Danish Red Cross and Luxembourg Red Cross. -- For more information, visit our migration and displacement webpage to learn more about the IFRC’s migration policies, programmes and operations

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18/07/2022 | Article

Healing the invisible scars of the Ukraine conflict: IFRC and European Union launch mental health project

According to the WHO, one in five people are affected by mental health disorders in post-conflict settings. If left without treatment and adequate support, people from Ukraine face long-lasting effects that could harm themselves, their families and communities. “Wounds of war are deep, sometimes too deep to manage alone,” says Nataliia Korniienko, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support delegate with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). As a Ukrainian herself who had to leave the country when the escalation began, she understands firsthand the stress faced by those fleeing conflict. “People are craving for someone to take the time to sit alongside them in their pain, but this often lacking for many fleeing Ukraine right now.” In a regional initiative to meet this massive need, National Red Cross Societies in Ukraine and 24 EU/EAA countries have joined forces to offer mental health and psychosocial support services to hundreds of thousands of people from Ukraine. Funded by the European Union, and with technical assistance from the IFRC and the IFRC Psychosocial Centre, the project connects vulnerable people with mental health professionals and volunteers from the National Societies. Support is offered in Ukrainian and other languages through various platforms, including helplines, mobile outreach and in-person group activities. Materials on psychosocial support in several languages are also going to be distributed among mental health professionals and the public. Since the first days of the conflict, Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers have been assisting people at border crossing points, train stations and temporary shelters – listening and demonstrating empathy, sharing life-saving information, and taking care of vulnerable people. Aneta Trgachevska, acting Head of Health and Care at IFRC Europe, said: “We try to reach everyone in need in a convenient, personalized way. Assistance will not be limited to just a couple of calls or meetings—a person will receive support as long as we are needed. This kind of early response can alleviate symptoms and prevent people from developing serious levels of distress or even mental health conditions.” -- The content of this article is the sole responsibility of IFRC and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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01/11/2022 | Press release

Survivors stranded at sea: SOS MEDITERRANEE and IFRC call for maritime law to be respected

The Ocean Viking – a search and rescue ship chartered by SOS MEDITERRANEE and operated in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – rescued 234 women, children and men from six boats in distress in the central Mediterranean between October 22 and 26. “People rescued in the central Mediterranean by ships should and must be allowed to disembark in a Place of Safety within reasonable time as is the case for search and rescue operations conducted by authorities and merchant ships. The ever-worsening blockages faced by rescue ships in this stretch of the sea since 2018 are discriminatory and unacceptable. Keeping survivors onboard ships hostages of political debate longer would be the result of a dramatic failure of European members and associated States,” says Xavier Lauth, SOS MEDITERRANEE Director of operations. “The people rescued are absolutely exhausted, dehydrated, with psychological distress, and some requiring immediate medical attention. We provided health care, food, water, hygiene items, psychological first aid and opportunity to call and connect with family members. But they cannot afford to wait any longer, this uncertainty is making the situation unbearable with stress growing day by day. They urgently need a port of safety,” says Frido Herinckx, operations manager with IFRC. People’s right to promptly disembark in a Place of Safety suffers no debate. The current blockage in the disembarkation of the search and rescue operations are grave and consequential breaches of maritime law. The international convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) frames Search and Rescue obligations to States and shipmasters in great detail, from the obligation to respond to and coordinate search for boats reported in distress, to the obligation to assign a “Place of Safety as soon as reasonably practicable”. All circumstances are considered, including the obligation for most able to assist States to cooperate in order to identify a place of safety for disembarkation; the obligation to provide assistance “regardless of the nationality or status of such persons” (Chapter V - Reg 33.1- amendment 2004), as well as the fact that “status assessment of rescued persons” should not “unduly delay disembarkation of survivors”. IMO RESOLUTION MSC.167(78) (adopted on 20 May 2004) As per maritime conventions, the Ocean Viking informed relevant maritime authorities at all steps of the search and rescue operations and asked for the designation of a Place of Safety. We must prioritize and cooperate in search and rescue operations for people on the move regardless of their status, including through clear, safe and predictable disembarkation mechanisms for rescued people. SOS MEDITERRANEE and IFRC urge EU members and associated states to respect maritime law, cooperate in the designation of a Place of Safety for the survivors on Ocean Viking and put an end to the suffering of hundreds of men, women and children.

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13/05/2022 | Press release

Red Cross extends support to families separated by violence and conflict

Budapest/Geneva, 13 May 2022 – Ahead of the International Day of Families on 15 May, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is expanding its family reunification services with a new initiative. The Reunification Pathways for Integration (REPAIR) project is co-funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), and enables safe and legal family reunification in the EU by assisting beneficiaries of international protection and their family members before, during and after arrival. The three-year project is led by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with the Austrian, British, French and Slovenian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). National Red Cross Societies in these four countries are scaling up their support by offering a range of services including counselling, visa application support, socio-cultural orientation sessions, psychosocial support and language classes. They also provide integration support to help family members reconnect after a long period of separation. Building on the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement's longstanding work with migrants and refugees, the project aims to improve and expand the current service provision through the development of new tools and approaches, also to be shared with key stakeholders. Activities in the programme will contribute to the improvement of the Family Reunification journey for affected communities and a strengthened network of agencies in Europe and beyond. IFRC Europe Regional Director, Birgitte Ebbesen, said the right to family life must be respected, regardless of where people come from: “Whether from Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan or Somalia, people who flee violence and persecution often become separated from their family members, which can have devastating consequences on their wellbeing. Without their loved ones, they are not able to resume normal lives. Family reunification is essential to realizing the right to family life in Europe and key for long-term integration in receiving communities.” The project is built on Restoring Family Links (RFL), a key mandate of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement to deliver activities that aim to prevent separation and disappearance, look for missing persons, restore and maintain contact between family members, and clarify the fate of persons reported missing. Family reunification is one of the safe and legal routes to protection to Europe, yet families face many challenges due to the complex legal framework and practical obstacles. Bringing together beneficiaries of international protection and their relatives often turns into a lengthy and unsafe process. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is calling for a more holistic, protection-oriented approach that is safe, inclusive and provides the necessary support to families at every step of the way. Preparing local authorities and host communities for the arrivals should also be an integral part of the action. “A fair and swift family reunification process ensures dignity and helps prevent desperate families from taking dangerous journeys to join their loved ones, often resulting in tragic deaths and people going missing en route. We are not just helping people, we are saving lives,” Ms. Ebbesen added. For more information, please contact: In Budapest: Nora Peter, +36 70 265 4020, [email protected]

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04/03/2022 | Basic page

ESSN storytelling project

Through the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), we supported Syrian refugees living in Türkiye to tell their stories about the realities and issues that matter to them. This page is dedicated to showcasing the stories of Ahmed, Asmaa, Noor, Alaa, Farouk, Abdurrezak, Luai and Malak in their own words.

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30/03/2022 | Press release

Launch of ambitious partnership between IFRC and EU: a new model for the humanitarian sector

Brussels/Geneva, 30 March 2022 - An ambitious partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) launched today aims to be a new model for the humanitarian sector. In response to the increasing number of crises arising worldwide, the pilot Programmatic Partnership “Accelerating Local Action in Humanitarian and Health Crises” aims to support local action in addressing humanitarian and health crises across at least 25 countries with a multi-year EU funding allocation. The partnership strengthens mutual strategic priorities and is built around five pillars of intervention: disaster preparedness/risk management; epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response; humanitarian assistance and protection to people on the move; cash and voucher assistance; risk communication, community engagement and accountability. European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said: “I welcome with great hope the Pilot Programmatic Partnership with IFRC, a trusted EU partner who shares our vision of implementing efficient and effective humanitarian aid operations worldwide. The funding allocated for this partnership reaffirms the EU commitment to help meet the growing needs of vulnerable people across some 25 countries, in close cooperation with the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. It also confirms our commitment to strategic partnerships with humanitarian aid organizations.” IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said: “Longer-term, strategic partnerships are essential to respond to the escalation of humanitarian crises around the world. We must respond rapidly, we must respond at scale, and we must modernize our approach to make impact. We know that the most effective and sustainable humanitarian support is that which is locally led, puts communities at the heart of the action, and is resourced through flexible, long-term and predictable partnership. The pilot Programmatic Partnership allows exactly that.” The Programme will begin with an inception phase in several countries in Latin America, West and Central Africa and Yemen. The main objective is to provide essential assistance to those currently affected by humanitarian crises, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters and conflict and to prevent loss of lives and suffering. Investment is also made to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with disasters through the implementation of disaster preparedness and risk reduction components. Working closely with its National Societies, the IFRC’s global reach combined with local action, its long history of community-driven humanitarian work and its Fundamental Principles, make it the partner of choice for this Pilot Programmatic Partnership with the EU. Following the first phase of implementation, the Programme aims to expand its reach and include additional countries around the world with the support of more EU National Societies. Key facts The 10 countries of implementation in the inception phase are: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Yemen, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. The seven National Societies from the EU working to support the implementation of the inception phase are: Belgian Red Cross (FR), Danish Red Cross, French Red Cross, German Red Cross, Italian Red Cross, Luxembourg Red Cross and Spanish Red Cross. For more information In Brussels: Federica Cuccia, [email protected] In Geneva: Anna Tuson, [email protected], +41 79 895 6924

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18/01/2022 | Press release

#PowerToBe campaign launches to help shift perceptions of refugees

Ankara/Berlin, 18 January 2022 -The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched a campaign to tackle negative perceptions of refugees at an increasingly critical time across Europe. The #PowerToBe campaign follows four passionate Syrians living in Turkey – Hiba, a musician, Eslam, an illustrator, Ibrahim, a swimmer and Mohammed, a coffee lover – who are regaining control of their lives through the help of monthly cash assistance funded by the EU, ultimately giving them more power to be themselves. The four protagonists each meet digitally with influential people from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Portugal and Poland who share a common passion for music, art, water sports and coffee. The campaign shows how people from all walks of life can connect with one another at eye-level despite differences in language or backgrounds. In the #PowerToBe campaign, fifteen-year-old drawer Eslam speaks to well-known German illustrator Steffen Kraft, Italian street artist and painter Alice Pasquini and Swedish street artist Johan Karlgren about her passion for illustration. “Drawing a lot helped me to show the world, even if only a little, what happened in Syria,” Eslam said. Ibrahim, who became paralyzed during the conflict in Syria, connects with Polish professional high diver, Kris Kolanus about the freedom and boundlessness they both feel in the ocean. “Even though many things can hinder me, I am trying to do something. For next year, I’m preparing myself to swim the competition across the Bosporus.” Mohammed, a father of two, talks to Turkish coffee bean suppliers Hasibe and Ümit about his passion and memories associated with coffee. “When we came to Turkey to an empty house, we had nothing at all. Some Turkish brothers helped us, gave us some furniture.” They tasted his coffee and told him it was “the best they’ve ever had”. Hiba, who now attends a music school in Istanbul, connected with Portuguese singer-songwriter April Ivy, whom she wrote and sang a song with. “I like to give people hope because whatever struggles we go through, there are actually nice things happening as well,” Hiba says. Turkey is currently home to the world’s largest refugee population with almost four million who are trying to rebuild their lives. About 3.7 million of those are Syrians who fled the conflict that has devastated their country. Funded by the European Union, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is the biggest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to nearly 1.5 million vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The ESSN is implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent and the IFRC in coordination with the Government of Turkey. The cash assistance helps give refugees some relief from an exceptionally challenging year where many are facing deepening debt and poverty due to the secondary impacts of COVID-19. Cash assistance helps give people like Hiba, Eslam, Mohammed and Ibrahim freedom and dignity to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine. At the same time, it provides the opportunity to invest back into communities that host them, supporting the local Turkish economy. This year we have seen vulnerable refugee communities slip further into hardships, but we also see their hope and strength. Through this campaign, we wanted to highlight the contributions and resilience they have despite all the challenges. When given the right support, refugees’ potential is endless. Jagan Chapagain IFRC Secretary General Hiba, Eslam, Ibrahim and Mohammed were forced to leave everything behind, but have held on to their dreams and continued to pursue them with passion. The ESSN programme offers a critical lifeline to them and 1.5 million other vulnerable refugees in Turkey, many of whom have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. We are proud to see the tangible difference it makes by giving them the opportunity to make choices for their lives. Janez Lenarčič EU Commissioner for Crisis Management More information Click here to download more information about the #PowerToBe campaign, including short backgrounds on each of the people receiving ESSN assistance and the influencers taking part. You can also visit the #PowerToBe website and learn more about the ESSN on our website here. To arrange interviews, please contact: In Berlin: Samantha Hendricks (Social Social), +49 1577 495 8901, [email protected] In Turkey: Nisa Çetin (Turkish Red Crescent), +90 554 830 31 14, [email protected] In Turkey: Corrie Butler (IFRC), +90 539 857 51 98, [email protected] In Turkey: Lisa Hastert (ECHO), +90 533 412 56 63. [email protected]

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25/01/2022 | Article

Cash and livelihoods: a winning combination for long-term sustainability and support to refugees

By Deniz Kacmaz, IFRC Turkey, Livelihood Officer Turkey is hosting the largest refugee population in the world. More than 3.7 million Syrians have sought refuge as well as 330,000 under international protection and those seeking asylum, including Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians, Somalis, among others. With the conflict in Syria now entering its twelfth year with few signs of change, means that we are not just looking at a humanitarian emergency anymore, but on long-term resilience. Since the refugee influx began in Turkey, the Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılay) has been taking a leading role in the response. As of April 2020, Turkish Red Crescent through its KIZILAYKART platform and IFRC run the largest humanitarian cash programme in the world, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), funded by the EU. This programme has helped more than 1.5 million cover some of their most basic needs, covering their groceries, rent and utilities, medicine and their children's school supplies. But humanitarian emergency cash assistance can only go so far. There is also a need to focus on longer-term resilience. This is why we are working on both the urgent needs of refugees, while also supporting longer-term livelihood opportunities for refugees and host communities. From humanitarian cash to longer-term resilience We are working on both the urgent needs of refugees, while also supporting longer-term livelihood opportunities for refugees and host communities. This means being part of the labour market to meet their own needs and rebuild their life without depending on social assistance, including the ESSN. We must focus on long-term solutions where refugees, supported by the ESSN, gain their power to stand on their feet and become self-reliant again. I have been working at IFRC Turkey Delegation for almost two years helping identify gaps and find opportunities to empower people's socio-economic capacities. This approach helps ensure they are resilient in combating challenges in the future, including the devastating socio-economic impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and general obstacles around employment opportunities. We have seen in many contexts when refugees are able to build their resilience and self-sufficiency, they can contribute even more meaningfully to the local economy. When they benefit, we all benefit, including host communities. What are we doing to bring this long-term solution to the lives of refugees? As of April 2021, we have launched referrals that link people receiving cash assistance through ESSN with a plethora of livelihood trainings and opportunities in Turkish Red Crescent community centres. The 19 community centres across Turkey offer support to both refugee and host communities, including work permit support, vocational courses such as sewing; mask producing; various agricultural trainings; and Turkish language courses and skills trainings. These services are critical to breaking barriers in the local markets. The community centres connect skilled individuals to relevant job opportunities by coordinating with public institutions and other livelihood sector representatives. The ESSN cash assistance provides support to refugees in the short term while giving them opportunities to learn new skills, which can lead to income generation in the long term. How do we conduct referrals from the ESSN to livelihoods? There are many sources where families are identified for referrals, some of the most common are: Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılay) Service Centre 168 Kızılay Call Centre Direct e-mail address to the TRC referral and outreach team Identified potential individuals among ESSN protection cases Field teams including monitoring and evaluation and referral and outreach teams who are regularly engaging with those benefitting from ESSN In the first months of combining cash assistance with longer-term programmes, we have supported more than 1,000 refugees. Some have been referred to employment supports including consultancy for employment and work permit support, while others are attending language courses, vocational trainings, and skills development courses through public institutions, NGOs, UN agencies and TRC’s community centres. Though we have developed a robust livelihood referral system, collectively, we need to make stronger investments in social economic empowerment in the future. While we continue to work on improving our programming and referral mechanisms, as IFRC, we are also reaching out to agencies, civil society, donors, and authorities tolook at how we can: increase investment in socio-economic empowerment in Turkey, mitigate barriers to employment for refugees, and create greater synergies between humanitarian and development interventions. It is this collective effort that will deliver the longer-term gains necessary for both refugee and local communities in Turkey to thrive. -- The ESSN is the largest humanitarian cash assistance program in the world, and it is funded by the European Union. The ESSN has been implemented nationwide in Turkey in coordination and collaboration with the Turkish Red Crescent and International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies (IFRC). We reach more than 1.5 million refugees in Turkey through the ESSN, and we give cash assistance to the most vulnerable populations to make sure they meet their basic needs and live a dignified life. The Turkish Red Crescent with its 19 community centres throughout Turkey supports millions of refugees as well as host communities. The Centres provide several courses, vocational trainings, social cohesion activities, health, psychosocial support, and protection services, among others.

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03/12/2021 | Press release

EU and IFRC support people affected by the water crisis and drought in Syria

Damascus, 3 December 2021 – In response to the severe water crisis and drought in Syria, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 748,000 CHF (709,000 EUR) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund. The European Union is providing CHF 158.000 (150,000 EUR) in humanitarian funding to assist the most affected people. The funding is part of the EU's overall contribution to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The funds released to the IFRC will help the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) cater to the humanitarian needs of 15,000 people with food and health interventions over six months in Al Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, which are some of the most affected localities. Since January 2021, Syria has been witnessing extreme drought conditions coupled with unprecedented low water levels of the Euphrates River leading to poor agricultural production and loss of livelihoods. Millions of people are now experiencing worsening food insecurity and increasing malnutrition rates. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers and community health promoters will distribute food parcels and engage in hygiene promotion and disease prevention through awareness-raising about waterborne diseases and COVID-19. Background Through the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department, the European Union helps millions of victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the European Union provides assistance to the most vulnerable people on the basis of humanitarian needs. The European Union is signatory to a €3 million humanitarian delegation agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). Funds from the DREF are mainly allocated to “small-scale” disasters – those that do not give rise to a formal international appeal. The Disaster Relief Emergency Fund was established in 1985 and is supported by contributions from donors. Each time a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society needs immediate financial support to respond to a disaster, it can request funds from the DREF.For small-scale disasters, the IFRC allocates grants from the Fund, which can then be replenished by the donors. The delegation agreement between the IFRC and EU humanitarian aid enables the latter to replenish the DREF for agreed operations (that fit in with its humanitarian mandate) up to a total of €3 million. For more information, please contact: Rana Sidani Cassou, Head of Communications – IFRC MENA: Mobile +41766715751 / +33675945515 [email protected] Anouk Delafortrie, Regional Information Officer – European Humanitarian Aid MENA: Mobile +962 777 57 0203 [email protected]

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02/12/2021 | Press release

€325 million boost to EU’s largest ever humanitarian programme, reaching 1.5 million vulnerable refugees in Turkey

Thursday, 2 December: Ankara, Turkey - More than 1.5 million refugees in Turkey will continue receiving critical support thanks to a €325 million boost from the EU’s largest humanitarian cash programme, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the Turkish Red Crescent Society in close coordination with the Government of Turkey. In a press conference today in Ankara, Turkey, Janez Lenarčič, EU Commissioner for Crisis Management said: “Thanks to new EU funds announced today, we will be able to continue the ESSN programme throughout 2022. This support is a critical lifeline for thousands of families, many of whom have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. This cash assistance enables them to decide for themselves what they need most urgently, whilst contributing to the Turkish economy.” Turkey currently hosts the largest refugee population in the world, many of which are Syrians. The ESSN has been providing monthly financial assistance via the “Kizilaykart” debit card since 2016, helping families cover their most essential needs, such as food, rent, transport and medicine. The additional funds from the European Commission will continue until early 2023. Refugee families currently receive 155 Turkish Lira (about €10) monthly per person with additional quarterly top-ups based on family size, enabling them to decide for themselves how to cover what they need while contributing to the local Turkish economy. The cash assistance, which is aligned with the existing Turkish safety net, currently supports around one-third of the vulnerable refugee population in the country. Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General said: “We are seeing the destructive secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for those most vulnerable, including refugees. We’ve heard from families who are making impossible decisions – between covering their bills, feeding their families, or keeping their children in school. Now more than ever, this cash assistance is critical – it is a lifeline for so many.” New research from Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC has shown that debt levels among refugees in Turkey have more than doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic began with just under half of those surveyed not having an acceptable food consumption, a 20 per cent increase in the last year. The cash assistance from the ESSN is providing an important buffer, with one in two people saying it has helped them manage their debt. Dr. Kerem Kınık, President of Turkish Red Crescent said: “Many vulnerable groups are facing one of their most difficult years, living in hard conditions. Many have come to Turkey for safety. Continued support to the ESSN will ensure families can keep a roof over their children's heads, feed their families and help them get through these difficult times.” AV materials Photos from the visit Additional b-roll on the ESSN programme Background European Union: The European Union and its Member States are the world’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Relief assistance is an expression of European solidarity with people in need all around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and human dignity of populations affected by disasters and crises. Through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department (ECHO), the European Union helps millions of victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the EU provides assistance to the most vulnerable people on the basis of humanitarian needs. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, reaching 150 million people in 192 National Societies, including Turkish Red Crescent, through the work of 13.7 million volunteers. The IFRC acts before, during and after disasters to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. The IFRC has been leading large-scale cash programmes for decades in response to a broad spectrum of disasters around the globe. The Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılay) is the largest humanitarian organization in Turkey, helping vulnerable people in and out of disasters for years, both in the country and abroad. Since 2012, the TRC has been providing first-line response to the refugee influx, supporting millions of people in camps and urban settings. Through their leading cash team and the “Kizilaykart” debit card, the TRC supports millions of vulnerable refugees and Turkish communities to cover their basic needs. The Turkish Red Crescent, IFRC and EU work in coordination with the Government of Turkey and its Ministry of Family and Social Services. The Government of Turkey is an important partner of the Emergency Social Safety Net programme, which is linked to the existing social system in Turkey. The country hosts the world’s largest number of refugees, and the Turkish Government plays a leading role, with regards to the response to the Syria crisis. For more information or to arrange an interview: European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations: Lisa Hastert, +905334125663, [email protected] IFRC: Corrie Butler, +90 539 8575198, [email protected] Turkish Red Crescent: Nisa Çetin, +90 554 8303114, [email protected]

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26/02/2021 | Article

“I am not one voice. I am the voice of refugees”: Here’s what one inspiring young Syrian wants you to know

Hi, my name is Reyan. I have many plans for my life and my future, for the world. I want to live a life full of happiness. I want to help every child… Reyan Reyan is a painter, writer and poet. Although she uses different mediums, the story in each poem, text and painting talks about one thing: her home country Syria. The 18-year-old young woman has been through a lot; a war, loss of her loved ones, and destitution. The pain, distress and hardship can be easily seen in her drawings and words on a frequent basis. However, her determination, strength and hope are also there. The young and promising artist wants to accomplish a lot in the face of the darkness that fills her art sketchbooks and notebooks. As the Syrian war approaches the 10-year mark, here is a letter in her own words, what she wants you to know: “I am hearing a voice calling me from afar: “Girl, get up, the darkness is getting stronger and fills the country. Get up. Come on, do not give in. The darkness is getting worse. Injustice has begun. The war has eaten us with an unknown mouth. Rise up and raise your voice for the right to peace. Do not be afraid. We are with you. We all want peace; we all want our rights.” I am not one voice; I am all your voices. I am us and you are me. Let us end the darkness and let the light begin again to unleash it. I am a simple girl; I aspire simple things. Despite darkness, injustice, poverty and oppression, despite everything, I just want you to help me reach my voice. I want injustice, bullying, poverty to stop. I want peace for us. I want to defend all our rights to end the black war. An inner voice expresses my story, pain and patience. I could have told you about my story, but my story is a story of a story: homeland.” Like Reyan, many people have had to find refuge from the Syrian war and taken shelter in neighbouring countries. Funded by the EU Humanitarian Aid, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) cash assistance is helping 1.8 million refugees in Turkey to have much-needed stability by covering their most essential needs so that they can fulfil their dreams. -- This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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20/01/2021 | Article

Syrian refugee gets through challenges with power of writing

Said loves reading and transforming his personal struggles into stories and poems. Each tells a different story close to his heart about love, loss and the everyday challenges of those forced to flee conflict, like himself. “How can I be indifferent to the suffering of those people injured by bombardments,” he says. “I write about humanity and homelessness. About the ones who were displaced just like us. I feel them and I feel their suffering. These are the people of my country – they are my family.” Said is a 66-year-old Syrian refugee living in Turkey; he and his family were forced to flee their hometown in Syria’s southwestern area of East Ghouta in 2018. Said remembers a beautiful life before the war, full of nature and books. Working as a farmer since he was 12, he was growing vegetables and raising livestock. Inside his house, he had a large library, filled with precious manuscripts and books from well-known philosophers. When a rocket landed on their home in Eastern Ghouta, the whole library was engulfed in flames. “The fire devoured everything, blew up everything. With all the past, with all the books it had, with all the documents there. It was my legacy and the legacy of my ancestors. And all were gone,” remembers Said. When the rocket attack tore through his home, he remained under the rubbles with his three-months-old grandchild Jana and shrapnel from the rocket severely injured him and paralyzed almost one side of his body. With barely any time to recover, they were forced out of their village and crossed into Turkey. Said’s wounds are still fresh. However, writing, reading and time with his little grandchildren help him hold on to hopes of a new life. “I sit with my grandchildren, they are always with me. We play games together and I tell them stories. I think I am child-like to them,” Said says with a smile. Starting over in a foreign country with a physical disability was not easy. Now, Said receives small cash assistance each month from the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC, with funding from the European Union. Due to many health problems he and his family have, they use most of the cash assistance to buy medicine. Funded by the European Union and its Member States under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to nearly 1.8 million of the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The cash assistance enables them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine. -- This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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18/12/2020 | Article

Displaced people from Eastern Ukraine’s new life in Russia

The stories of three families and howthey’ve created new lives after fleeing Ukraine for Russia with support from an EU-funded programme. Tatiana is a mother of three who was forced to leave her hometown of Mariupol in Ukraine due to hostilities in 2015. “When the conflict began, we no longer had the strength to endure these horrors, we were afraid for the safety of our family and we decided to leave,” she says. Arriving in Yelets, Russia, Tatiana turned to the Russian Red Cross for support: all family members were given several vouchers to buy groceries and other necessities, as well as free healthcare policies. “We have passed the circle of hell. We had nothing to sleep on: there were no pillows and bed linen, thanks to the Red Cross we acquired these necessary things. And thanks to healthcare policies, we were able to get free medical care, which we could not afford." Fellow Ukrainian Elena fled Horlivka, Donetsk region, in 2014. Since then, the family faced many difficulties on their way: they couldn’t find legal work due to lack of citizenship and couldn’t afford decent housing. “There was a time when we had to live with 10 people in one room. Work was also difficult to find due to a lack of citizenship. And because of the pandemic, there are even fewer opportunities to work,” shares Elena. The Red Cross supported Elena’s family by issuing food vouchers and health insurance, as well as providing psychosocial support. “The help was very significant. It allowed us to save money and buy furniture, take care of the paperwork – otherwise we would not be able to afford it,” she shares. Christina together with her husband and a small son had to leave her hometown of Luhansk in 2014 and settled in Volgograd. In an attempt to overcome stress and find the strength to move on, Christina contacted the Russian Red Cross for psychological support. “Red Cross helped me a lot. I had a chance to speak about my worries and issues. And my son, a child with special needs, receives psychosocial support as well: he can always come here, draw, and talk to the Red Cross staff.” Christina's family also received vouchers to buy food, legal assistance and free health insurance for Nikita through the programme. “When I come here, I feel like it’s home. People who work for the Red Cross are very kind and helpful. I am very glad that they are here for us and help so many people!” More about the EU-funded programme assisting displaced people from Eastern Ukraine Since 2014, over 1.1 million people from Ukraine have moved to Russia. The regions of Belgorod, Lipetsk, Voronezh and Volgograd are among those hosting the largest numbers of displaced people. Since May 2017, the IFRC and the Russian Red Cross Society have provided humanitarian assistance to more than 10,000 displaced people from Ukraine. The project focuses on helping displaced people who have not yet received asylum status or whose status is non-regulated in Russia, which limits their access to basic health services and social benefits. Funding has been provided by the EU’s Directorate-General of European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) totalling 300,000 Euro between October 2020 and December 2021. Disclaimer: This document covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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30/11/2020 | Article

COVID-19: an opportunity to challenge our traditional way of working with communities

By Sevde Nur Söylemez COVID-19 has challenged our approach as humanitarians – how can we still support the most vulnerable while still keeping people safe from this pandemic? For Turkey, we’ve learned to challenge our traditional way of supporting communities and have adapted – even reinvented some of the ways we do things. I have worked for the Turkish Red Crescent for more than 2 years now, supporting the world’s largest humanitarian cash programme, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) with the IFRC and funding from the European Union. This programme supports 1.8 million refugees living in Turkey with monthly cash assistance to help them buy the things they need most. One of the most critical parts of our job is engaging with the communities we help, to hear people’s perceptions, so we can respond better to their needs. One of the best ways to do this is through focus group discussions - a crucial research tool that provides richer experiences and ideas from people who are generally coming from similar backgrounds. No matter the condition, never stop the communication Without the same opportunity to have these face-to-face interactions, we came up with a different innovative approach - remote focus group discussions, which had never been done in the programme before. Its key findings are fundamental to better understand the current struggles and situations refugees are facing during the pandemic all while keeping them safe from the spread of COVID-19. Findings: The devastating impacts of COVID-19 I heard many heart-breaking stories of refugees, trying to make ends meet. In most households, the sole breadwinner lost their jobs due to the pandemic. COVID-19’s effect has also had severe mental health impacts – families are more isolated as visits between neighbours, friends and relatives are limited. In addition, the children have some challenges in accessing the online curriculum. Among the things people shared, these quotes stuck out for me: “I used to have a grocery store, but I had to close it.” “It affected us and our jobs. I couldn’t work for three months” “I don’t have neighbours but I have many relatives here. My daughter was in the hospital for 12 days. No one could come because they were afraid.” Nevertheless, when they talk about the situation, we could see the hope and expectation of a better future. Many told us how the ESSN cash assistance has been a lifeline and that it would have been even harder without it. How did we conduct the remote focus group discussions? The Turkish Red Crescent has a call centre, an important source of information for people we help. We utilized this to call families to confirm their participation in the discussion. We go to the household and meet the participant, ensure written consent and hand them a mobile phone that they use to connect online to a digital focus group discussion, hosted by the Turkish Red Crescent. Field staff were on standby to help if any problem occurs with the connection or device while they were in the session. During the discussion, if there are any issues we identify it and take or refer the case immediately to our other relevant teams. Fewer participants, more expression Across Turkey, we conducted 26 focus group discussions, between four to six participants attending each. Groups were also broken down between men and women. We found we could reach and include the elderly and people with disabilities without inconvenience. This gave us a greater opportunity to hear and understand their opinions and made the bond between us even stronger. Whenever we arrive in communities, we are welcomed. Although we have physical distance between us – at least 1,5 meters – our faces hidden behind masks, we can still feel the warm smiles. The pandemic may have changed the way we approach our work, but the connection between us and participants has never stopped, there is always a way. -- This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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30/09/2020 | Article

Cash assistance in Turkey helps refugee families invest in language skills for a chance at a better life

Before the everlasting war in Syria, Sabit El Hacco used to grow wheat on his own farm. However, when he fled conflict in 2016 and arrived in Turkey, the conditions drastically changed for him and his family. El Hacco continued to work as a farmer but this time seasonally on other family’s lands, oftentimes struggling to make ends meet. “We used to cultivate our own fields back at home, growing wheat. Here, when there is an opportunity, we continue to work as farmers. However, there are no jobs in winter,” said El Hacco. Living with his family of 12 in a shanty house located in Ankara’s Beypazarı district, famous for its agriculture, El Hacco tries to do what he knows best to be able to provide for his 10 children. However, without speaking the local language, securing a stable income stands as a challenge. “Without speaking the language, the job opportunities are very limited. For this reason, I applied to the district governorship’s Turkish language course,” said El Hacco. El Hacco began receiving monthly cash assistance from Turkish Red Crescent through the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme in coordination with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) and funded by the EU. It allowed Sabit to focus on learning the local language and re-establishing his life in Turkey without worrying about his family’s day-to-day needs. “We wouldn’t be able to afford shelter to be under or even take care of our children without Kızılaykart,” said El Hacco. “ESSN means being free of debts, having a shelter, having a life to us,” he adds. More about the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme Funded by the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), IFRC and Turkish Red Crescent are providing monthly cash assistance via debit cards to the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey under the ESSN programme. This is the largest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and the largest programme ever implemented by the IFRC. ESSN is providing cash to the most vulnerable refugee families living in Turkey. Every month, they receive 120 Turkish Lira (18 euros), enabling them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine. *This story was originally published on Turkish Red Crescent’s website and adapted by the IFRC. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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24/08/2020 | Article

Engaging 1.7 million refugees in the face of COVID-19: Lessons from Turkey

By Lotte Ruppert COVID-19 does not discriminate, but the pandemic has disproportionately impacted certain vulnerable communities. Migrants and refugees face particularly large risks, due to language barriers, limited access to public services and a larger reliance on informal labour. Each has diverse perceptions, fears and opinions that we, as a humanitarian community, must address if we want to see this pandemic end. For Turkey, a country that hosts the largest refugee population in the world (over 4 million from places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran), this presents a unique challenge. How do you engage people with diverse languages, cultures and communication preferences, all while adhering to strict movement restrictions to curb the pandemic? Despite the impressive efforts from governmental and humanitarian actors, our impact assessment from April 2020 showed that almost one-quarter (23 per cent) of refugee households did not feel like they were receiving enough reliable information about COVID-19. In response, Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC have ramped up their efforts to listen and engage with refugees in Turkey during the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are three lessons we learned about how to engage with communities at a large scale through the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), the largest cash programme globally. Lesson 1: Use a wide variety of communication channels Everyone communicates differently. In ESSN, we rely on a range of different channels to allow people to speak with us in a way that they prefer and trust, including Facebook, regular SMSs and our toll-free Call Centre, where all operators have been trained to respond to COVID-19 related concerns and to provide hygiene advice or updates related to ESSN. But these remote communication channels are not enough. Refugees in Turkey have expressed their preference to share more sensitive concerns and complaints during private face-to-face conversations. Our nine Service Centres, spread across Turkey, have remained fully operational in order to provide information and support to people during the COVID-19 outbreak, with robust measures to ensure the safety of both its staff and visitors. This approach has been crucial to building trust. Lesson 2: Do not ignore rumours “I have an ESSN card but I saw on Facebook that my monthly cash assistance will soon be ended. What is the reason for that?” asked a refugee recently via our call centre. This “fear rumour” reflects the anxieties of refugees living in Turkey that ESSN may end. Another refugee family shared: “We are currently receiving ESSN cash assistance, but we have seen on YouTube that Turkish Red Crescent will now also give us rent assistance due to the impact of COVID-19”. This is a clear “wish rumour”, reflecting the hope of refugees for more support during these difficult times. The spread of such misinformation and rumours has always been a challenge for ESSN. But we learned that during the COVID-19 pandemic – a time of increased insecurity and stress – it is even more important for us to monitor the appearance and spread of misinformation. The best defence is to prevent rumours before they start. We share regular information updates, getting accurate, trusted information into people’s hands before rumours have a chance to emerge. When rumours and misinformation do surface, we quickly counter false stories with verified information and ensure the news stories or posts are removed online. We encourage the people we work for to participate too by sharing verified, trustworthy information within their community. Lesson 3: Responding to incoming questions, feedback and complaints alone is not enough. Reach out proactively to the most vulnerable households While actively reaching out to every one of the millions of refugees living in Turkey is practically impossible, Turkish Red Crescent has made thousands of outbound calls, contacting the most vulnerable households. This includes families required not to leave their homes for some weeks due to a mandatory curfew, including anyone over 65 as well as people with disabilities. This proactive approach enabled people to share all their questions and concerns with us, including sensitive issues or requests for additional support. Depending on the specific needs and concerns raised, Turkish Red Crescent has referred some of these people to other services, such as the national COVID-19 emergency hotline, the social assistance services provided by the Turkish Government, and specialized services from other humanitarian actors, including protection actors. Conclusion In Turkey, now more than ever, we must continue to build more meaningful relationships with communities and act on people’s concerns and suggestions. COVID-19 has challenged the way we as a humanitarian sector work, but it has also allowed us to find more innovative solutions to listen to refugees and respond to their needs. More about the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) Home to more than 4 million refugees, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world. Most of them are Syrians, fleeing a conflict that has been ongoing for nine years. With funding from the European Union, Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC are able to provide monthly cash assistance to the most vulnerable families through the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN). Over 1.7 million refugees benefit from this assistance, enabling them to cover some of their basic needs, including food, rent and utilities, every month. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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21/08/2020 | Article

Peru: Supporting migrants in the middle of a pandemic

By Melissa Monzon Luis Luis was born in Caracas, Venezuela. Two years ago, he decided to leave his country, seeking for a better quality of life. He started his trip by bus, because he didn’t have all the documents to travel by plane. “When I arrived in Cucuta, I found the Red Cross, they gave me a kit with help for the road, because the trip was very long; I was traveling to Medellin”. Once in Medellin, he worked there for eight months, and then started his way to Lima, Peru. The road was not what he expected, once in Ecuador he encountered a series of protests and when he couldn´t continue with his trip, he had to stay two days in the station waiting to be able to take the bus to continue his journey. “When I arrived in Guayaquil, I once again found a Red Cross tent, they help us all, they gave us a food kit, things for personal care and medicine”, says Luis. Then he continued his route until he arrived in Lima. Once in Lima, a friend offered him a job selling food. “I worked hard every day, we had several problems, but we persisted, working in an exhausting schedule”. However, due to the pandemic, he could no longer continue working. “As I worked on the streets, with COVID-19 we couldn´t work anymore. It hit us pretty hard, because that was our only income”. Luis has a bicycle, and now that Peru is opening up some economic activities, he is already looking for a job, offering his home delivery service. “As I am a migrant, I don´t have a subsidy from the government. For this reason, every day, I go to the markets, looking constantly for a job, I hope to find it soon”, says Luis. Yudi A year and seven months ago Yudi came from Venezuela to Peru with her family, seeking a better quality of life. In order to be able to make the trip, they sold everything they had. Peru was their destination since the beginning, as they heard that they were handing out the temporary residence permit, with which they could work and earn a living legally and honestly, as she tells us. “My daughter has epilepsy, this also made us take the decision to migrate. We needed to go to a place, to a country where they could offer her medical care and get the medicines that she so badly needs.” Before Yudi traveled, her brother and nephews had already arrived. After they proved that they felt Good here, Yudi traveled with her sister, her two sons and her two dogs, who are also part of the family. Once in Lima, Yudi worked as a tutor for online courses until November 2019. Due to the pandemic, her sister and son were also unemployed; her nephews, who had a food business, had to close it. “The situation is quite uncertain, we don´t know what will happen”, says Yudi. Jesus Jesus came from Venezuela to Peru four years ago. His trip was by bus, because he didn´t had enough money to travel by plane. He first arrived in Ecuador, where he stayed for two months, and then arrived in Peru in 2016. “When I arrived, everything seemed nice to me, although I didn´t knew many things, I felt out of place, I was only twenty years old. I lived in one room and shared a bathroom with sixteen people. I worked as a waiter in a restaurant; until today I am very grateful to those people because I didn’t have the documents at that time, and they always treated me well”, says Jesus, who already knows the city today, has Peruvian friends and colleagues, and tell us that thanks to them he has been able to learn more about the country’s culture. Eventually he moved to an apartment and went from waiter to manager of a restaurant. “I met very nice, spectacular people, they gave me a lot of support, I learned a lot of things, because when I left Venezuela, I was a student, I didn’t have work experience.” Due to the pandemic, Jesus no longer has a job because the restaurant where he used to work decided to close. “I lost my job; it was alarming because I lived alone. I was worried, but happily I had contact with some friends who decided to move in with me.” Jesus tells us that another great concern of not earning an income is not being able to send money back to his mom and dad who live in Venezuela. He, like so many other migrants, is a source of income for all those families who stayed in their countries. “I try to see the positive things in everything. When the quarantine begun, I tried to organize myself a little more, I sold some stuff, and I tried different things to distract myself, I tried to do exercise a lot, pray a lot, watch the news and communicate with my family in Venezuela.” Pedro* Pedro left from Venezuela to Colombia a year and a half ago searching for work, while his wife Maria, traveled to Peru. After two months, they met each other in the latter country. Once in Peru, Pedro worked in a restaurant. “It was very difficult because I have never worked in a kitchen before, but I did my best, my wife was pregnant at the time. I always tried to do my best, until I was stabled at my job. I worked hard, obtaining each of the things that I have today in my home, and helping my family in Venezuela, where I have two children. Fighting every day for the welfare of my family”, says Pedro. In the context of the pandemic, Pedro lost his job. In one of his wife’s pregnancy test, they test him for HIV, the result tested positive. “I have been very pleased with the treatment they have given me; I have received excellent attention and information. I am very grateful with the hospital, with its staff, with the help here in Peru, they have helped us a lot. They have given me pills, information, everything I needed”. Despite his degree of vulnerability, Pedro has gone out to work on the streets, as he is the livelihood of his family both in Peru and in Venezuela. “I have gone out but taking all the preventive measures, with my mask and my hand sanitizer. I need to go out to work, especially for the baby who needs food”. “I am very grateful to be in Peru, and I continue with great desire to continue working and fighting for my family, and for those we love the most, to help my children in Venezuela, and we will be here until God allows it, and then to be able to return to our country someday and to enjoy our people”, concludes Pedro. ------------- Luis, Yudi, Jesus y Pedro are some of the people who are part of the Cash and Voucher Assistance program implemented in Peru by the Red Cross with the support of the European Union. This program is aimed at families in a vulnerable condition, who have been left without financial support due to the pandemic. As part of the program, families receive a card with an economic amount to cover their basic needs. In the testimonies collected, the families have shared with us that the card has allowed them to cover expenses mainly for rent, food and health. *This name was changed to protect the person who kindly gave us his testimony.

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04/08/2020 | Article

IFRC provides largest single-cash transfer to respond to the socio-economic needs amid COVID-19

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact around the world, including a major economic gap that many families are struggling to overcome. For refugees, COVID-19 is only exacerbating already existing vulnerabilities, losing the little income they earn and forcing them to cut down on food, medicine and other basic needs. A survey conducted by Turkish Red Crescent (TRC) and IFRC among 500 refugees showed that 70 per cent lost their livelihoods since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Turkey. This, combined with almost 80 per cent reported an increase in expenses, had left them with the frequently referred option of borrowing money to meet their basic needs. In order to address the COVID-19 socio-economic impact, more than 1.7 million refugees living in Turkey are receiving additional cash assistance through European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) implemented by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the TRC. This marks the largest single cash transfer in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s history, totalling EUR 46.4 million. Each family will receive an additional 1,000 Turkish Lira, approximately EUR 128. This is not an added grant, rather reallocated funds from the existing ESSN budget, funded by the EU. This is part of the Federation-wide emergency appeal for 1,9 billion Swiss francs to help the world’s most vulnerable communities halt the spread of COVID-19 and recover from its effects. “Because of the coronavirus, our expenses have increased for water, electricity and cleaning products,” said Hanan, a Syrian refugee who fled the war to come to Turkey in 2014. “The Kizilaykart helps me with house expenses, such as food, cleaning materials and other expenses.” “We are mentally exhausted… This period has exhausted us,” added one refugee receiving support from the ESSN. The additional cash assistance has taken place over June and July, followed by a regular quarterly cash top-up in August, enabling vulnerable refugee families to overcome the constraints imposed by COVID-19 during this difficult transition period. “Many people are in survival mode - living hand to mouth during COVID-19. This cash assistance has been a lifeline, allowing them to provide for themselves and their families,” said Jonathan Brass, IFRC’s operations manager for the ESSN in Turkey. “Cash, particular in times like COVID-19, provides immediate and flexible aid for families to prioritize their needs. It gives them a sense of security, certainty and confidence that their children will not go hungry.” Cash assistance stands as one of the most efficient ways to support vulnerable communities due to its quick, safe and reliable delivery. Because the cash is being sent to refugees via the digital banking system, it also limits the risk of infection to those we serve. Additionally, cash increases investments in local markets, supports host communities which may also negatively affected by COVID-19 and give freedom and flexibility to families to meet their own individual needs. Learn more about ESSN here. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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06/07/2020 | Article

Call centre provides refugees in Turkey with vital information and support amid COVID-19

Seren Sabancı Keser, a 27-year-old call centre operator at Turkish Red Crescent, received a call from a refugee in need who could not go and receive his Kızılaykart (a prepaid debit card)– he was in hospital after showing COVID-19 symptoms. This debit card provides them with cash assistance to help meet their basic needs. This is just one of the many calls Seren has received over the past few months. Calls significantly increased after the COVID-19 pandemic was first confirmed in Turkey. “The numbers of call we received during the pandemic peaked in the past 3 months. Refugees have been affected socially, physically, financially, in every imaginable way, like the rest of the world. You understand the desperation of those who lost their jobs from their voice,” said Seren. Adapting to the COVID-19 response The Turkish Red Crescent call centre Seren works at has operators, speaking five different languages. She wears a headset microphone over her disposable face mask, offering support and information to the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey, the largest refugee-hosting country worldwide, amid strict measures taken against COVID-19. Seren responds to many calls from refugees receiving the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) cash assistance programme, jointly run by IFRC and Turkish Red Crescent. Shortly after the first COVID-19 case was reported in Turkey in mid-March, strict measures were introduced by the Turkish government in a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic in the country. Lockdown was introduced for those above 65 years and under 20 years old and inter-city travel restrictions and weekend curfews were imposed. Unlike many workplaces which had to stop their operations, the call centre quickly adapted by taking the necessary precautions. The workplace was immediately arranged to provide enough space between the desks according to social distance precautions, necessary protective equipment was provided, and alternative transportation choices were offered to the staff members. Seren underlined that the call centre played a key role in the lives of refugees when the pandemic first erupted in Turkey.“ As they can’t go out and everywhere is closed,” said Seren, adding that they never stopped receiving the calls. Growing humanitarian needs in the wake of COVID-19 Most of the calls Seren has received from refugees relate to loss of jobs and difficulties in meeting their essential needs such as food, hygiene items, rent and bills. “Most of the times people calling are saying they lost their jobs and if there will be additional help – if there are any food or hygiene packages that will be provided,” she said. A rapid assessmentconducted by IFRC and Turkish Red Crescentwith those who receive support through the ESSN programme, found that COVID-19 has deeply impacted vulnerable refugees. Almost 70 per cent of refugees surveyed lost their jobs and 78 per cent faced an increase in their expenses, according to the report. Providing two-way communication with refugee families despite COVID-19 Launched in November 2016, as a mechanism to enable two-way communication between humanitarian responders and affected communities, the call centre receives calls from refugees who benefit and want to benefit from ESSN. Apart from being the first responder to answer refugees’ questions and find solutions to refugees’ challenges, Seren and her colleagues also refer refugees to other types of assistance provided by Government Social Assistances Service and Turkish Red Crescent other units serving specific to refugees to ensure they get the support they need. Call centres also became a critical source of information on preventing and responding to COVID-19 cases. As part of steps to inform refugees about COVID-19, the call centre also replaced the call waiting tone with informative messages in five different languages, explaining hygiene rules and other kindsof preventive measures against the pandemic. “We encourage them to use masks all the time and refer to a medical institution or call the Ministry of Health hotline if they were in touch with a COVID-19 patient,” she said. This is not the first time Seren has worked with refugees. Thanks to her Arabic language skills and due to her calling to help others, she has been supporting refugees since the start of the Syrian refugee exodus. Seren says her work can be tiring as her thoughts don’t stop when she goes home in the evening. The possibility of helping more people is always in the back of her mind. “When we are having a busy day, the only thing in my mind is how I can receive more calls, help more people immediately,” Seren said. “Because there are many refugees in need of support.” This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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12/06/2020 | Article

Opinion: COVID-19 — it’s time to take cash to the next level

By Caroline Holt Jobs are being lost. The restrictions on movement that are keeping people safe from the coronavirus are often damaging or destroying their livelihoods and their ability to feed and care for their families. Around the world, the most vulnerable people are facing a stark and possibly deadly choice: Do they risk contracting COVID-19, or risk not feeding their families? As humanitarians, how can we help prevent families from having to make this impossible choice? In Turkey, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC, and the Turkish Red Crescent surveyed some 500 Syrian refugees being supported by our programs. We found that 69% have lost their jobs, their expenses have skyrocketed, and their biggest concern is how they will feed themselves and their families. More than half of these households are borrowing money to cover their most basic needs — including food. Right now, vulnerable communities across the world need extra support quickly, safely, and reliably. Due to the scale of this crisis, there is a very diverse range of groups and individuals being badly affected, and their needs are equally diverse. We must be able to provide flexible support that can adapt to these different needs. Delivering cash to the people in most need and in close coordination with national social protection systems is the most appropriate way to respond to the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 around the world. We all know and talk about the benefits of cash, especially now in these difficult times. Yet the latest estimates suggest that less than 20% of humanitarian relief is currently delivered through cash programming. The immense impact of COVID-19 is a wake-up call for us to change this. There is no better time to tap into the power of cash as a critical link between economies and households, and it can become a lifeline for millions of people globally. The current pandemic has shown us that without health, there is no economy. It also shows us that without access to financial support, it is harder for people to reduce health risks or recover their health once lost. "Giving cash gives people the choice of prioritizing their own needs and contributing to their communities." Giving cash to people facing crisis helps address a wide range of needs — from rent, food, and education to hygiene items that help prevent diseases from spreading or encourage access to health care. It allows them to prepare, prioritize, and take care of their families, based on their own preferences and decisions. By alleviating the stresses on families struggling to meet their basic needs, we can help them avoid negative coping mechanisms that could put them at further risk of COVID-19. Cash programming allows us to respond rapidly and at scale while still protecting the people we serve, our staff, and our volunteers in communities around the world. Through the European Union-funded Emergency Social Safety Net program, Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC are providing monthly cash assistance to more than 1.7 million refugees. Transferring funds through this existing infrastructure can allow us to rapidly respond and adapt to current needs and provide additional assistance when needed at a massive scale. In the Africa region, IFRC is supporting at least 20 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to deliver cash through popular mechanisms such as mobile money to provide immediate support to families. The cash will help people invest in and strengthen local economies — a key to their road to recovery — as well as jump-start livelihoods when the restriction on movement allows. For cash programming to work effectively and be accountable to the people our sector serves, we must be embedded at the community level. More than ever before, the challenges faced by international organizations in deploying on the ground during the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the need for an ever-increasing localized approach. Because of their everyday work, volunteers know — with or without immediate physical access to communities — which people are most vulnerable, most at risk of falling through the gaps of existing social safety nets. Despite the current sense of urgency, the humanitarian sector should resist the temptation to replace or duplicate national governments’ social protection systems but rather collectively invest in existing systems and help to reinforce them. We must advocate to make social protection systems more flexible, relevant, and inclusive. Ever since the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, the importance of localization and of scaling up the use of cash, the need for change, and the necessity of innovation have been at the top of the humanitarian sector’s agenda. Nothing about the way humanitarians are working and operating during this pandemic is business as usual. We are having to reinvent the way we respond in this crisis and set aside the traditional modes and methods of support. More than ever, we need to work with affected populations and acknowledge that they are best placed to lead their own path toward a new normal. Giving cash gives people the choice of prioritizing their own needs and contributing to their communities. With all these advantages available through cash programming, it is time for humanitarians to take cash to the next level. *This opinion piece was originally published on on June 12, 2020. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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28/04/2020 | Article

5 ways that cash assistance has transformed humanitarian response to refugees in Turkey

Many people affected by humanitarian crises think their priority needs are not being met by humanitarian aid. Cash assistance is one critical approach that is helping responders better put the needs and capacities of affected people at the heart of humanitarian action.For the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, it has become an integral part of our work. Most recently, with funding from the European Union, the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC are implementing a unique cash-assistance programme in Turkey. It enables more than 1.7 million most vulnerable refugees to meet their basic needs and rebuild their lives. The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme provides a blueprint for how cash assistance can be better used in the future. 1. It is people-centred According to a Ground Truth Solutions survey, almost half of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh sold in-kind assistance offered to them so that they could use the money to purchase goods and services they need. Cash puts an end to aid being limited to the goods and services that humanitarian organizations deliver and gives people the freedom to spend the cash on what they need most. Providing affected populations with cash means more than addressing their true needs, it also means dignity. Having an option to buy the things they need in a shop rather than waiting in a queue for goods also gives the aid recipients a sense of normality that has been lacking from their lives due to conflict. “The cash assistance is granting us freedom of choice and returning a degree of dignity to our lives.” -A refugee receiving cash support from ESSN (WFP report from 2018). Cash assistance also offers them the most important opportunity, having control over their own recovery. Refugees who take ESSN cash assistance are less likely to consult to negative coping strategies like reducing the quality and quantity of the food consumption, getting into debt and taking their children out of school. 2. It’s more cost-effective and can ultimately, reach more people Delivering cash assistance often costs less than delivering in-kind assistance thus reaching more people in need. How much money is required to manage an operation? How much money is required to transport and store aid in a warehouse? By taking advantage of digital payment systems (like debit cards and SMS) cash-based assistance can greatly reduce costs spent on logistics, transportation and human resources. Compared to the previous humanitarian basic needs assistance provided, the ESSN resulted in significant reductions in administrative costs, leading to at least 90 per cent of all ESSN funding going into the hands of those in need and reaching as many as 1.7 million people. 3. It empowers local economies and communities Supporting people in need with cash also means supporting the host population. As the migration deeply affects those seeking safety, it also creates a completely new situation for the hosting community. Use of cash-based assistance can help people in need to support local markets. This can greatly reduce possible tensions, increase support for humanitarian aid from locals and spark the first steps of integration. Although there is room for development, the ESSN has the potential to influence social cohesion between refugees and host communities, according to a WFP study. About half of the refugees who attended focus group discussions said that they had established good relations with their Turkish neighbours. 4. It is easy to deliver Conflicts, natural disasters or health emergencies - each bring with them difficult conditions to work in, including challenges in access. If markets are not too weak or supply is sufficient, cash enables assistance to vulnerable people in extraordinary times. Operating under the current conditions of COVID-19 poses many challenges, particularly with restricted or forbidden movement of goods and resources. Sending cash to refugees digitally limits the risk of infection to those we serve as well as host communities and our frontline workers. 5. It enables a more effective, efficient, and transparent humanitarian sector Cash assistance ensures humanitarian organizations are more accountable to both donors and affected people. It increases the transparency of operations by showing how much aid actually reaches the target population. It also addresses people’s true needs as it gives them the ability to decide what they require. In April, Turkish Red Crescent’s ESSN hotline answered 1.2 million calls, sent more than 1.3 million SMSs and reached out to more than 85,000 refugees thorough its multilingual Facebook page. ESSN monitoring data indicates that the awareness amongst refugees of the ESSN and its application procedures is very high and only a small proportion of refugees lack information on the ESSN at any point in time. The use of easily verifiable demographic criteria satisfies the donors need for transparency and accountability, while also ensuring that refugees themselves have full information on why they are (not) included in the ESSN program. --- As ESSN’s unique approach and scale shows cash is people-centric, makes the most out of limited budgets, increases the speed and flexibility of the humanitarian response, improves local economies, reaches the most vulnerable even in insecure environments and enables us all to be more accountable to the people we serve. Cash doesn’t replace all humanitarian services. However, under the right circumstances, cash offers a massive opportunity for us to put communities’ at the centre of our response. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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